Erick Baker is coming to Jammin’ Java next Wednesday with a pretty big seal of approval from his Knoxville home base. According to Knoxville’s Cityview magazine, he’s the best singer-songwriter around. Knoxvillians voted him to the honor, and Baker is still amazed by the news last month that he was among the city’s “Best of the Best.”
“I actually framed the magazine and everything, because that’s the first cover that I’ve been on,” Baker said. “It’s a humbling thing, and it’s such a validating thing, too. But really, more than anything, to look back on the road that has brought me here, especially here in Knoxville, is wild.”
The 33-year-old came to professional musicianship later in life than most. It was only after he had graduated from college that he started making music – first around the house, then with friends, then at tiny venues around town. He recalls dreaming of getting on the stage at the Bijou Theatre, the big 800-seat music venue in downtown Knoxville, while playing those “crappy little college bars” around the city.
Now, he’s sold out that theater six times in a row, and he’s performing with acclaimed singer-songwriters such as Gavin Degraw and Edwin McCain. He’d like to be selling out those big theaters in each of the cities he plays, but he’s grateful for what he’s been able to achieve – “If, five years from now, I’m still doing what I’m doing, then that’s goal accomplished for sure,” he said.
Baker had always enjoyed music, but it wasn’t so great a part of his life, not like it is now. The poetry of songwriting, though, was new to him. And it’s his profoundly intimate songwriting that has been the subject of critical praise and adoration from fans.
When he feels uncomfortable in writing, he knows he’s on to something good. Exposing the deepest parts of himself to listeners is tough, but the rewards are great. When a listener says he put words to the otherwise indescribable things that person felt, it means a lot to Baker.
“It’s one of the greatest compliments that anyone can give me is about the realness of what I’m doing, and the authenticity of it,” Baker said. “I’m writing what I know; I’m writing from experience.”
Take “Room to Fall,” a track on his first full-length album, 2010’s Holding the Pieces in Place. Becoming a parent inspired the track, and made him want to thank his own parents for giving him the space to make mistakes as he set out on his musical career.
“I would not have gotten up/If you had not let me fall,” he sings with tender conviction.
“The passion that I’m able to put into the performance of those songs, night in and night out, 20 years from now I’ll still be passionate about all of these songs because I’m not just writing to make something sound good. It has to mean something,” Baker said.
His latest album, this summer’s Goodbye June, is for Baker an album about growth, a chance to embrace the past that led him to this point, cherish the present, and open his arms to the future as he moves into “the July of my life.”
• For more information about Erick Baker, visit erickbaker.com.